Dortmund - Going into his sixth season in charge of Borussia Dortmund, Jürgen Klopp's appetite for football, and titles, is undiminished.
With the start of 2013/14 Bundesliga campaign fast approaching, the Yellow-Blacks' 46-year-old head coach spoke with bundesliga.com about that hunger for success, the lessons learned from the UEFA Champions League final defeat at Wembley, his rejigged squad and their targets in the season ahead.
bundesliga.com: Jürgen Klopp, if we could start by looking back for a moment: Later on the very same evening that you lost to FC Bayern Munich at Wembley, CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke announced that Borussia Dortmund would be sending out a team that is "at least as good" this season. Did that shake you up a bit?
Jürgen Klopp: Not at all, why should it? That doesn't mean we have to get straight back into the final of the Champions League again. On evenings like that, you're going to have the odd person in a melancholy frame of mind and there's no harm in cheering them up a bit. I found the statement completely OK. It goes without saying that we set our own standard and part of that is to keep striving to be an even better team and to improve our performance level all-round. On top of that, we already knew then in London where we wanted to take it next and what we had at our disposal for the job. We may not have known exactly which transfers we'd be able to see through, but we did know we'd be able to put a good team together again. We had our plan and, as it stands, we have the feeling it's a plan that could work out pretty well.
bundesliga.com: You recently gave Bayern a 100 percent quality rating, for 22 or 23 players in their squad. How many Dortmund players get the same seal of approval?
Klopp: At the moment I'd say 17 or 18. What we have over and above that is a lot of potential. We have a tremendous amount of talent packed into our squad. There are some very gifted players who we have great hopes of and who it's going to be a real pleasure to see developing further. But just to be clear here, we're not competing like-with-like against Bayern. It's not something that's an issue for us. We want to regulate the situation so that we can deal well with the present and pave the way for the future a bit at the same time. That's the plan.
bundesliga.com:Jonas Hofmann is one up-and-coming talent who has already made his presence felt in pre-season. In principle, though, you've said that the door's open to anyone this year to potentially come up through the ranks...
Klopp: What that means first off is that everyone here has the chance to train regularly for the whole week at the absolute highest level. And if you can more or less count up to five, it won't take you long to notice that you don't have four other players competing for your position. So straight away, you've got the package of really good training and decent prospects. That leaves you in a very good position to develop and progress. That's what we can offer the young lads.
bundesliga.com: On the other hand, Dortmund have dug deep into their pockets to sign up Sokratis, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Is that a policy of precisely-targeted, high-end strengthening of the squad?
Klopp: That's just what it is. We've responded to our situation and the problems that arose last season. We need a full-time replacement for Felipe Santana and one for Lukasz Piszczek for the next six months. Sokratis fits the bill perfectly there. In midfield, we have to cover for the departures of Moritz Leitner, Mario Götze and Leonardo Bittencourt and we've found a high-quality solution there, too - with three new players, when you count Jonas Hofmann alongside Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. "Auba" can fortunately play as an out-and-out forward as well, so that's us covered there, too. We really do think we're well set and ready to keep following our own path. But part of that involves giving our own talented hopefuls a real perspective as well and that's what we aim to do.
bundesliga.com: Will the players profit as well from a policy of rotation, with Dortmund involved on three fronts?
Klopp: We're still a team who have to play at our limit in order to maintain a dominant role in the Bundesliga. And to play at your limit, you need a settled side. First we have to ensure that's the case, and then quickly see to it that we can bring other players into the set-up effectively as well. But rotation's not really a top priority at the start of the season, when there's hardly any midweek action. We want to win games, not be top of the rotation league. What you need above all in the early stages of the campaign is stability and that's usually easier to achieve with a team who are playing together regularly. Come the end of it, you want everyone to be looking back and able to say - 'The coach was right, we all had our part to play. And we've got our reward for responding properly in every situation.' That's what I'm aiming for. But over the course of the season I can't make everyone happy every day. One or other will inevitably find himself out of the first team on occasion and probably won't enjoy it much.
bundesliga.com: Mkhitaryan is generally viewed as Dortmund's trophy signing of the summer and the obvious replacement for Götze. Nuri Sahin has said he sees the Armenia international as having more in common with Shinji Kagawa, though. How would you describe him?
Klopp: That's not far wide of the mark. A lot of "Micki's" movement is reminiscent of Shinji's. He's incredibly dynamic, a very intelligent reader of the game and a great finisher. A top-class footballer all-round, in short. And to top it all, he's a fantastic bloke as well, a real character - very funny and a bit cheeky. It's great fun with him. Contact with Armenia wouldn't necessarily be part of your regular weekly agenda, and then this guy comes here and you're thinking - if they're all like him, let's get over there and get a fan friendship going. He's a great lad - and so are our other two new faces.
bundesliga.com: Talking of Kagawa: he's at Manchester United FC and said recently he could well imagine returning to Dortmund at some stage down the line. When did you last speak to him?
Klopp: We still keep in touch. It's a bit difficult to speak with him directly, largely because his German hasn't dramatically improved while he's been in England. Talking to him on the phone isn't what you'd call a piece of cake. But I'm in regular touch with his interpreter, who's working in Nuremberg these days. And I often have a few words with Shinji's agent, Thomas Kroth, as well. Believe me, I'm always right in the picture about what the lad's up to.
Interview: Dietmar Nolte